It was Holy Saturday, the year 2017. All the priests at the cathedral helped with confessions from noon until 3.00pm. I saw the last penitent in line and requested confession from one of the guest priests who usually comes from a nearby parish to help. Meanwhile, the other priests who heard confessions left the cathedral. My associate thought that I had gone inside the rectory, so he locked the sacristy door. I saw the guest priest off and headed to the sacristy only to realize that I’d been locked out with my set of keys inside the sacristy; so I had no way to access the rectory. I tried to reach for my cellphone but my phone, too, was in the sacristy. I sat by the sacristy door hoping someone would come in. I pulled out my rosary and started praying. I prayed the 20 decades; and an hour passed, and then another, yet, no sound. I fell into a trancelike sleep. As I opened my eyes, I saw a very huge man at the sanctuary, right in front of the altar. He had removed a candle on one of the candlesticks—the bishop’s candle—and replaced it with a black candle. He pulled a lighter and lighted it. It was the clicking sound of the lighter that alerted me. I quickly approached and blew out the black candle, took it out, and commanded him to exit the sanctuary—a command he obeyed. Then, he started cursing at Jesus right in front of me with several expletives. I gave another command for him to immediately leave the cathedral. The words he said to me as he was leaving were: “I know you talk to Jesus, tell Him that I hate Him.” Seeing rather a human being like me on whom the evil one is inhabiting, I replied: “He loves you. He died for you.”
Last Sunday, we heard how Jesus’ authority was revealed as He called His first disciples and they followed Him, abandoning their trade and family. Makes you wonder, what sort of person would have words so effective that immediate action results. The Church in her prayer calls Him “the (creative)Word through whom God made all things.” So powerful is this Word that in Him speech and action are one and the same. Before Him, evil spirits shriek and melt like ice cubes inside a microwave, the powers of hell collapse at His presence. The demoniac of today’s gospel shout in fear: “I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” The man was instantly freed and repossessed by God. It was the same power which, I believe, was at work when God let me confront in the name and power of Christ the evil one who sought to desecrate the altar. It is the power and authority of Jesus that moved you today to come to worship God and acclaim Jesus as the Son of God. Listen to the stunned expression of those who heard Him: “Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it: He gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey Him.”
A distinctive mark of Jesus’ teaching is that it has authority behind it. The people testify that unlike the scribes with their uninspiring speeches, Jesus’ teaching convinces, impresses, and changes those who hear Him. The simple reason is: it is true. It’s not filled with the jargon and hysterical mumblings of modern day fake preachers and healers, the ideologues in the news media, who pretend to be newscasters.
Jesus has especially the power to confront evil, which perturbs many minds and has infested many lives in modern society. The philosophers define evil as a deprivation of good that should be there. Having a physical and spiritual component, evil is jarring. Though physical evil like sickness, death, poverty, war, storms, and other disasters may threaten, a greater threat comes from spiritual evil, which numb and menace life at its core. Its bequests are: lies, hatred, divisions, hardness of heart, abortion, euthanasia, gender ideology, drug and porn addiction, etc. Just as we ask God to deliver us from wild fires and storms, so we must ask Him to deliver us, too, from lies and devilish ideologies.
Fr. Jovis Chukwudi Okonkwo